More than ever before, the biggest beer brands in the country offer alcohol-free alternatives to their alcoholic beers. Many of these beers you can get hold of in your local supermarket too. We decided to taste test some of the biggest names side by side, alcoholic vs alcohol-free beer, so that you can know what to expect if you’re looking to swap out your regular tipple for something alcohol-free or looking to reduce the strength of your drink by making a beer/beer shandy with the same brand.
Carlsberg (3.8%) and Carlsberg Nordic (0.0%)
Carlsberg’s alcoholic and alcohol-free offering have the smallest gap in their alcohol content (ABV for short) of the beers we compared in our taste test. Both are consequently quite light on the palate, with the Carlsberg Nordic having a tangy flavour whilst the full-strength one has a bit more of a grain flavour on the nose. Their similar flavours meant they worked really well when blended together to make a low-ABV beer.
A great alcohol-free option if… you want to mix a full-strength beer with an alcohol-free one – these two really compliment each other.
Budweiser (4.5%) and Budweiser Zero (0.0%)
The newly launched Budweiser Zero is similar to the full-strength Budweiser in that they both lean towards the sweeter end of the lager spectrum. The Budweiser Zero is nice and light but lacks some of the body that the more well rounded Budweiser has. Both have an enjoyable bready flavour that shows off that malt character with some additional sweetness.
A great alcohol-free option if… you enjoy beer with a bit more malt character.
Heineken (5%) and Heineken Zero (0.0%)
Heineken 0.0 has the most well-rounded taste and flavour of all the alcohol-free lagers we tried in our taste test with a fuller smell and stronger mouthfeel. It has nutty characteristics but is quite a lot less dry than its full strength counterpart. Something we particularly like about these two is their almost identical design which means you don’t feel like you are doing anything different, regardless of whether you opt for the full-strength or alcohol-free version.
A great alcohol-free option if… you want a drier lager.
Adnams Ghost Ship (4.5%) and Ghost Ship AF (0.5%)
Adnams Ghost Ship is a classic English pale ale in a very traditional style, reminiscent of cask beer. Those traditional flavours with the citrus hint remain at the fore of the alcohol-free version, with a lingering bitterness that gives the beer a well-rounded mouthfeel. The alcoholic version has slightly more nuttiness but they compare very well.
A great alcohol-free option if… you are into traditional beer styles.
BrewDog Punk IPA (5.6%) and Punk AF (0.5%)
BrewDog’s flagship IPA beer and its alcohol-free equivalent, BrewDog Punk AF, both stand out for being incredibly fruity on the nose – we enjoyed both in the taste test. Their strong tropical flavours make both the alcoholic and alcohol-free version great for craft-beer lovers, with the alcohol-free option having quite a strong bitter after-taste. The alcoholic one is thicker and the finish is slightly more well-rounded but that’s to be expected given its relatively high ABV.
A great alcohol-free option if… you’re into craft beer.
Online alcohol-free taste test
You can also watch a video of our first online alcohol-free beer taste testing and a roundup of alcohol-beers from USA, for more reviews and recommendations. And shop for alcohol-free beers online at Wise Bartender.
Some brands featured in this article are members of Club Soda, and we work a little more closely with these. You’ll always find a couple of them in our reviews, but we remain completely impartial.